An article by Thom Rainer has really set me off. I’ve been walking around my house tense and muttering. My dog wonders what is wrong with me. Here is the article: The Main Reason People Leave a Church. Grrrr… Where to start? I am angry.
In a way, I have already thoroughly responded to this article! See my post: Does your church make people jump through hoops? Stop it!. And this article by another blogger expands on my post with some analysis: My wish for the contemporary Evangelical church.
Essentially Thom Rainer is saying that the reason people leave a church…is their own fault! Isn’t the point of an exit interview to listen and learn? And not to just “go on the defense” and place all the blame on the leaver?
Certainly there can be demanding people out there with unrealistic expectations – I do agree with Rainer that the “entitlement mentality” exists. Yet, if certain complaints are being heard over and over again, I think some serious introspection is in order! Maybe, just maybe, the church shares part of the blame!
“No one from my church visited me.”
“I was out two weeks and no one called me.”
In this, I hear the cry of a lonely heart. So many people slip through the cracks of the church. Too many churches are cliquey and it can be hard, if not impossible, to assimilate into the church unless you meet the characteristics of their clique! Many of these lonely people just stop attending and never say anything. They just quietly disappear. And no one even notices. (And that sadly proves the point!)
The ones who do speak up (such as the ones quoted from the exit interviews in the article)..are seen as having an entitlement or country club mentality! Maybe some do, but I am certain that many do not! And the answer this article gives is that people must be moved from “an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality.” Really?? Haven’t we now jumped from one extreme to another??
What I hear coming through now is actually a “commodity mentality”! People are objects to do for the church. We must whip them into shape by preaching on service – they should be volunteering and doing in the church. Don’t you know your purpose in the congregation? Ugh! I am honestly so annoyed that I feel unable to express myself clearly. An entitlement mentality is not right, but neither is a commodity mentality!
Also – when the leaders pound away on the importance of service in the church – Isn’t that also an entitlement mentality on their end?? They have become guilty of an entitlement mentality themselves! Right?
And isn’t it part of the church’s responsibility to shepherd people? If the church is hearing multiple comments about people feeling neglected and forgotten, maybe they need to re-evaluate this aspect of their ministry. It seems to me that shepherding has fallen by the wayside, and too many leaders see themselves more like administrators who preach on Sunday and manage the church from a distance. One of the comments left after the post, said this (and I agree):
This is a “Leadership Issue” not a “Congregation Issue”. The church is in a leadership crisis. We have plenty of pastors who can lead from a platform through teaching and preaching but do little else to connect with their people throughout the week…(Dave McAuley)
(If a pastor is reading this, may I suggest this article by Pastor Brain Croft entitled: How can I make sure I am regularly shepherding everyone in the church? Note there is a part 2 where he explains how the method can work even in a large church.)
The comment above (by Dave M.) goes on to say that the pastors can’t do it alone. I agree. We can unfairly expect too much from our pastors. Individual believers in the church have a responsibility to care for and shepherd each other too. Consider the dozens of “one another” verses in the New Testament. Yet, leadership also sets the tone and must lead by example. Another person commented on Rainer’s article with this:
I totally agree with you Mr. Dave McAuley. I’ve been trying to get across that people need to be called or ministered to some way throughout the week. I’ve been going through a life crises, several all at once, and did not feel support from the church in which I was attending. Someone would ask how I am on Sunday, me in pieces, but didn’t seem to care enough to follow up. I came up w/the term “Sunday Friends” and it starting eating at me. I didn’t just want “Sunday Friends.” I was yearning for someone, anyone, to connect with, period, and especially emotional support throughout the week. But people are blind to those in need. I think unless you’ve been in those shoes, you don’t know what to do…(Valerie Smith)
Some may read the above as a “needy” person. But I hear the cry of someone who needs to experience the love of Christ in action. A friend of mine recently said: “It often seems unfair to expect people to notice the hurting souls of this world…when the church body often fails to answer the cries of it’s own family. It’s not easy to reach the point of asking.”
To bring this back around and to a conclusion…I think people who feel cared for and loved are more likely to get involved in serving in the church. Think back in your life to whatever place or setting…when have you been more likely to step up to the plate and help out? Was it when you felt valued and cared for? Or when you were treated like an object or only as a means to an end? People need to know that the church cares for and values them simply for who they are, and not only for what they can do for the church.
It seems we have gotten things all mixed up. The focus of Rainer’s article seems to be on making people understand their responsibility to the church. I think the focus is off!
Christ loved us even though we were unworthy. We are to love because Christ loved us. We are to love as Christ loved us. Service should flow from our love for Christ.
When the focus is on Christ, and Christ’s love flows through us and demonstrates itself through shepherding care for others…I think we will then see more people stepping out to serve in the church.
And… the back door will close.
I also think people who feel genuinely valued and cared for are less likely to get upset about petty things (country club mentality), and will be more loyal to the church and to Christ.